Picture: JEREMY GLYN
Picture: JEREMY GLYN

Eskom does not expect coal supply to be affected by the 21-day national lockdown, the monopoly power utility confirmed on Tuesday.  

“Provision and production of electricity is an essential service according to the law, and those critical elements in the value chain are indeed critical services themselves, and includes people who produce coal in the mines and the people who transport it,” Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told the Business Day.

On Monday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19 in SA. The decision came after the number of reported cases rose more than six-fold in a week. On Tuesday morning health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that cases had reached 554. The lockdown will commence at midnight on Thursday March 26.  

Only those providing essential services will be exempted from the lockdown. According to Ramaphosa’s announcement, this includes those involved in the maintenance of power and water services. However, a full list of essential personnel is yet to be published.

Though Ramaphosa said mines will have to make arrangements for care and maintenance to avoid damage to their continuous operations, this is not expected to include coal operations that supply Eskom.

Mantshantsha said Eskom will issue its suppliers with a letter of recognition to ensure they have the necessary permissions.

In a statement South32, which supplies coal to Eskom, said it understands that businesses essential for the maintenance of power generation in SA are exempt from the lockdown and will work with the government to determine the effect of this exemption on its SA Energy Coal and SA aluminium operations, given the role they play in the sustainability of Eskom’s generation network.

Mzila Mthenjane, executive head of stakeholder affairs at Exxaro, another, big supplier of coal to Eskom said the group was seeking clarity on the effect of the lockdown on its operations and would update the market in due course. Eskom said that while it did not expect to implement load-shedding on Tuesday, the possibility of rotational power cuts remains.

steynl@businesslive.co.za

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